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Lionheart SPECIAL System, Installment 7: Magic, pt 2


Lionheart is a computer role playing game that is being developed by Reflexive Entertainment in conjunction with Black Isle Studios. The game is an original title which uses an updated version of the SPECIAL character development system (from Fallouts 1 and 2) in a quasi-historical medieval Europe. Lionheart diverges from traditional high fantasy by placing the player on Earth in the 16th century in which history has taken a different path and magic has been released upon the world. Using a mix of historical and fictional locations and characters, the player progresses through a deep story while advancing through the classless character system.

In this series of articles, designers of the game will discuss various changes that have been made to the SPECIAL rules system from how it appeared in the Fallout series.

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Magic in the SPECIAL system and Lionheart, pt 2

Author's Note: We are constantly tweaking and changing both large and small aspects of the magic system. To be honest, we still aren't completely happy with all aspects of it. So some of this is going to change, but hopefully this installment will give you a good idea of what to expect.

In the last installment, I discussed the different Classifications for magic: Tribal, Thought, and Divine. Then I discussed how the system for these spells currently works, at least with regards to the spending of Skill Points to increase Skills and how each Skill represented a different group of spells. This hinted at the groupings somewhat, but I decided it was only fair to expand on some of those groupings this week so that you could get a better idea of what they are.

It needs to be pointed out that no single magic Skill is wholly self-sufficient. This is analogous to the rest of the system. The only thing you can do with the One-Handed Melee skill is attack things with one-handed melee weapons. By taking One-Handed Melee skill, you don't get better at evading attacks, picking locks, or anything else, you are just better at attacking. Magic Skills are like this. If you take a branch, it will give you a variety of spells that do very similar things, but you will still need other Skills to survive.

Let's look at the Summoning magic skill. Summoning is a type of Tribal magic that allows the user to create allies from nothing, or to summon spirits to create allies from the bodies of fallen enemies. Like most branches, there are five distinct spells that a player will gain access to while advancing. By spending only a few points in this skill, the character gains access to Create Undead. Further spending in this category will open new spells as the character advances:

Create Undead - By casting this spell the character binds any available inanimate matter into a not-quite living warrior that will fight for the player. Increased skill increases the power of this single animated warrior.

Animal Summoning - Upon casting, the wielder brings forth animals to fight as allies. Higher skill increases the number of animals summoned and increases their power.

Raise Enemy - This spell must be cast on fallen opponents and will infuse their lifeless body with a host spirit to animate their corpse to fight for you. Increase skill increases the number of enemies you can have raised at the same time.

Undead Energy - This spell is cast on either undead warriors or raises enemies and increases many of their statistics, making them stronger allies. Higher skill increases these bonuses and at higher level grants additional bonuses to resistances.

Insect Plague - This spell brings forth a swarm of insects that bite, sting, and poison all enemy creatures within the range of effect. Increases in skill make the swarm last longer, do more damage, and increase its radius.

The above spells are listed in order from the first received to the last. All do very similar things, but all are slightly different. Undead have different weaknesses than animals do, for example. And your enemies' statistics and abilities will be all over the place, so raising enemies could be quite a bit different from using undead or animals. And of course swarm of insects is more of an area-of-effect damage spell than anything else.

Also, while this may sound obvious, spending points on spells makes them better. They don't get obsolete or automatically shunned for the spell at the top of the ladder. For example, as the player advances their "Create Undead" spell, we replace lower level summoned models with more powerful ones - i.e. you get a better undead when your skill gets higher.

Summoning things to fight for you is both defensive and offensive. Hopefully your enemies will attack your allies, and hopefully your allies will defeat your enemies. Unfortunately, this is fairly passive, and the player can only hope their character's animated playthings will take care of the business they are intended for. This makes Summoning somewhat weak if used by itself.

Another branch is the Healing branch (which needs to be renamed). The magic is all of Divine nature and there are five spells granted as the character increases in skill:

Heal - Duh. I won't elaborate.

Resist Poison - This spell increases the character's resistance to being inflicted with poison and reduces the damage poison does if they do become inflicted.

Divine Assistance - This spell increases armor class, mana, and hit points to all friendly characters near the casters (including the caster). The amount of increase and the type is dictated by skill level.

Resist Fire - This spell increases the character's resistance to any fire damage.

Greater Resistance - This spell grants the player resistances to all damage types. This spell stacks with both Resist Fire and Resist PoisonGreater Resistance.

The thing to note here is that you won't be able to kill anything using your magic skills if you specialize in Healing. You'll be able to heal yourself and put up resistances, but the skill makes the character dependent on another method of dealing out damage. That other method could be melee or ranged or some other magical skill like Fire.

The Fire Skill contains a number of spells that only do one exact thing - they burn things. This brand of Thought magic really just lets you decide how to burn everything:

Fire Orb - A hot burning ball of flame travels from the caster to the target and torches them.

Dragon's Breath - This spell projects a stream of fire from the caster to the target. This torches anything unfortunate enough to be somewhere between the caster's hands and the soon to be smoking carcass of your target.

Circle of Flame - This spell Ccreates a circle of fire around the caster which follows them around and damages any opponent entering the radius.

Fireball - Upon casting the wielder summons up a ball of flame which travels to its target and explodes. The explosion immolates everything in the area of effect.

All fire spells increase in damage (and possibly radius) as the character's skill increases. A wielder specializing in Fire would be exceptional at killing opponents but very poor at keeping themselves alive.

In each of the cases I've used here, the magic skill is shown to be strong when used alone, but also limiting in some fashion. As with all characters, a magic wielding character will need to spread their points out among some competing skills to make a truly powerful character. For example, a Fire wielder who spends some points in Healing would be quite a character to deal with. Similarly, a character who could summon up a bunch of troops, and then hail down fire from the sky could be quite powerful. The summoner who has healing would have enough extra defenses to ensure a victory for his summoned warriors. Or you could make a character that is focused on melee and then just back that up with any of these three skills: Summon for shock troops, Healing for defense, Fire for the Circle of Flame spell alone. Any of these would increase the power of the melee character.

So while one of the things that changed SPECIAL most dramatically was the introduction of magic, we are confident that the way it is currently implemented will provide the same variety of character options and challenges as was seen in previous games which used it. Each player should be faced with the murderous problem of where to spend his points every time he goes up a level in order to get the most interesting and advantageous results.

Previous installments

  • 2002-07-29: Installment 1: Races & Attributes
  • 2002-08-12: Installment 2: Skills
  • 2002-08-26: Installment 3: Perks
  • 2002-09-09: Installment 4: Traits
  • 2002-09-23: Installment 5: Combat
  • 2002-10-28: Installment 6: Magic

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